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‘More Than a Truck’: Electric-Transportation Advocates Eye Many Community Benefits

The Los Angeles area, particularly Orange County and communities between the Pacific Coast and Little San Bernardino Mountains, is notorious for poor air quality. The area is often mentioned as having the worst air quality of any location in the United States and sometimes the world. But steps to improve the region’s long-polluted air are moving forward, and public health, the climate, traffic congestion, traveler experiences, and job training and placement are receiving the benefits.

On Feb. 11, Volvo Trucks chose Fontana, California, to unveil its efforts to reduce the trucking industry’s contribution to air pollution. The Volvo LIGHTS project was presented to 250
attendees at the main offices of TEC Equipment, one of the largest Volvo dealerships in the country. Auto Club Speedway served as the program’s official introduction.

Volvo LIGHTS (LIGHTS being an acronym for “low impact green truck solutions”) is a demonstration program being conducted in the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) to determine the feasibility of converting gasoline and diesel-powered trucks to battery electric vehicles. While the project may seem to be a truck manufacturer-led effort, the considerations when developing such vehicles go far beyond simply building a truck. For that reason, AQMD, recipient of a $45 million grant to conduct the project, is partnering with Volvo and 14 area
organizations including businesses, colleges, public-health advocates, and other stakeholders to turn what many consider a long-coming dream into reality. Working with Dependable Highway Express (DHE), a regional carrier, the partners will determine the many factors to be considered in converting a fleet to battery electric power. The list of considerations is long, and as research moves forward many more will likely be added. In the words of several partners, “We don’t have all the answers yet.”

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